Letters from our readers.
Oct. 23 1998 3:30 AM

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Slate Gets Booted

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Slate, formerly the new bastion of journalistic integrity, the watchdog of all media, has blown it. Or at least Jacob Weisberg has in "Positively Fourth-Rate." First, let me say that I very much agree that most of the time snobbish aficionados trumpeting the obscure B-side, bootleg, or rare import are nothing but annoying. However, when it comes to Bob Dylan, I begin to suspect that Weisberg is not much of a fan or a fact checker. First, Greil Marcus does get rather obsessive, but the song "I'm Not There" is readily available on the "illegal Basement Tapes bootlegs." I personally own it on two different collections, one a five volume collection of all known Basement Tapes recordings titled The Genuine Basement Tapes (the history of which is detailed by Clinton Heylin in his book Bootleg) as well as a bootleg greatest hits collection called The Genuine Bootleg Series, Take 2. I live in Kansas, the middle of the Midwest, and these CDs were easy to find in local stores. Anyone with Internet access or living in a larger metropolitan area should be able to hunt down "I'm Not There" in less than an hour.

Second, I personally disagree with the given assessment of the 1966 concert; I love the whole thing and, having heard many a live Dylan tape, consider it one of the better live concerts out there, and certainly one of the best-sounding recordings from the '60s. The bootleg recording is not like the standard pop album; it is by nature released mainly for the die-hard fan or collector, and while there is a great deal of dross to sort through, there are a lot of wonderful moments if you take the time to find them.

Furthermore (and what you should be writing about), the bootleg industry is currently undergoing a revolution in production, thanks to the introduction of CD-ROM technology, which effectively means that anything ever bootlegged is readily available. While CD-ROMs with color copies for inserts lose a great deal of the artifact value boots used to have, the resulting availability is ample compensation, especially since it has forced producers of traditional, higher-fidelity aluminum CDs to increase their standards, with better liner notes, more photos, and higher quality packages. Bootlegs preserve music that otherwise would have been lost forever and allow music fans, as opposed to consumers of pop music, access to a much fuller canon of musicians' work.


--Neil DrydenLawrence, Kan.

Political Uses of a Dead White Woman?

Your "Frame Game" title "St. Matthew: The political use of a gay man's gruesome death" strikes me as harsh and callous. While the content of the article on Matthew Shepard's murder is thoughtful if analytical in tone, the heading seems to support the idea of a gay person as a symbol, but not as an equal. Would you ever have written "Political Uses of a Dead White Woman"?

--Patrick MeadeNew York City


Yes, Health Care Is Unfair

Thank you for "Sickbed Populism," your well-balanced article on health maintenance organizations. You are on target with your suggestion. Republicans should counter with logical, informative statements that point out the costs involved in litigation. Sadly, the average citizen doesn't seem to understand that financial settlements are not manna from heaven.

My husband works in health care, and we often discuss related issues. One of the major problems HMOs are facing is inadequate Medicare reimbursement. Someone has to absorb the loss. The provider? I don't think so. The patient? Not politically correct. As a society we may have to face facts.

Maybe we shouldn't save every premature baby regardless of the cost. Maybe we shouldn't attempt to extend the life of every individual. We want it all and want it to be free. Life isn't fair ... never has been. You can bet no one will ever elect me to public office. I'm way too truthful.


--Margaret T. RichmanMetamora, Ill.

Nothing but Talk Is Cheap

Re "Sickbed Populism": So HMO patients shouldn't complain because they are getting "cheap" medical care. Well, I belong to Kaiser Permanente Senior Care, for which the government sends Kaiser $390 (!) per month to care for me. Does David Plotz think that is "cheap"? And the care I have received is not "managed" care, but mismanaged care. As soon as I can, I will be changing to some other plan, which means I will probably have to go back to work to pay for it.

--Dee TownsendAnnandale, Va.

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